Thursday, May 24, 2007

Glenn Gould's love affair with the microphone

One Sunday morning in December 1950, I wandered into a living-room-sized radio-studio, placed my services at the disposal of a single microphone belonging to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and proceeded to broadcast "live" - tape was already a fact of life in the recording industry but, in those days, radio broadcasting still observed the first-note-to-last-and-damn-the-consequences synodrome of the concert-hall - two sonatas, one by Mozart [K.281], one by Hindemith [No. 3]. It was my first network broadcast...a memorable one...that moment in my life when I first caught a vague impression of the direction it would take, when I realised that the collected wisdom of my peers and elders to the effect that technology represented a compromising, dehumanising intrusion into art was nonsense, when my love affair with the microphone began.

Glenn Gould describes the start of his love affair with the microphone. My source is Kevin Bazzana's highly recommended Wondrous Strange, The Life and Art of Glenn Gould (Yale University Press ISBN 0300103743). The header image shows a page from Gould's score of Hindemith's song cycle Das Marienlebenwhich he recorded with the Ukrainian born soprano Roxolana Roslak in 1977. As is usual for Gould there are very few interpretive markings, but the page is covered in editing notes - left click on the images to enlarge them.

The graphic below is very interesting, and it is not a score for a contemporary music composition. It shows CBC technician Lorne Tulk's plan for the epilogue of Gould's radio documentary The Latecomers (1969). The documentary was commissioned to promote CBC's new FM stereo service, and the central line shows the movement of the narrator from right to left of the soundstage. Much attention has been given to Gould's work in the music studio, but his pioneering and innovative "contrapuntal radio documentaries" are sadly neglected. Time for reconsideration perhaps?


Gould was in love with the microphone, now read about the best damn record he ever made, and follow this link for audio recordings from the official Glenn Gould archive.
Both images from Glenn Gould Estate with full acknowledgements. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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